Launch of the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge in New York
24 September, 2012
Ms Jenny Da Rin, AusAID Assistant Director General; Dr Nasser Marafih, Chairman of Qtel; Dr Maura O'Neill, USAID Chief Innovation Officer and Senior Counsellor; Chris Locke, GSMA Development Fund Managing Director. Photo: AusAID.
A mobile phone can change the life of a woman in a developing country–it can put her in touch with a health centre that would otherwise be days of travel away, it can provide instant information about food prices and markets, and it can allow access to mobile banking at the touch of a button.
On Sunday 23 September, AusAID’s Assistant Director General, Jenny Da Rin, US Agency for International Development (USAID) Chief Innovation Officer and Senior Counsellor, Maura O’Neill, and Qtel Group CEO, Dr Nasser Mohammed Marafih, announced the launch of the GSMA mWomen Design Challenge: Redefining the User Experience at this year’s Social Good Summit in New York.
Women in developing countries are often marginalised and miss out on education. As a consequence they lack the literacy and technical ability to navigate around mobile phones, preventing them from taking advantage of the opportunities that technology can provide. Closing the mobile phone gender gap is integral to the GSMA mWomen program. As many as 300 million women in the developing world do not have access to this potentially life-enhancing tool.
The GSMA mWomen Design Challenge is a key activity of the GSMA mWomen program and aims to reduce the barriers poor women in developing countries face when using their mobile phones. The challenge will encourage the development of simple mobile phone interfaces which respond to poor women’s needs.
AusAID Assistant Director General Jenny Da Rin, in kicking off the challenge, remarked that, 'in East Asia and the Pacific, there is a significant gap between women’s and men’s access to mobile phones. A mobile phone could change the life of a woman in a developing country in a quantum leap—immediate contact with a health centre that would otherwise be days of travel away, instant information about food prices and markets, mobile banking—all at the touch of a button.'
GSMA mWomen Program
Young women using a mobile phone in New Delhi, India. Photo: AusAID
Australia is providing funding of $3.6 million (2011-2014) to the GSMA mWomen program. The mWomen program is being jointly funded by AusAID, USAID, Visa Inc. and the GSMA, and aims to reduce the mobile phone gender gap by 50 per cent by 2014.
The program uses the power of the private sector to accelerate access to mobile services, and to provide life-enhancing services (including financial, health and education services) to women living in the developing world via the mobile platform.
Today, there are 34 mobile industry partners committed to the mWomen agenda, a 70 per cent increase in industry commitments since the program was launched. Since its launch in October 2010, GSMA mWomen has made great progress in expanding mobile access to poor women, increasing their ability to benefit from life-enhancing services, for example:
- Etisalat’s Mobile Baby product uses mobile technology to enable health professionals to quickly respond to obstetric emergencies. In its first few months, the program trained more than 500 midwives and registered more than 10,000 pregnant women in Tanzania, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The program is now being replicated in nine additional countries in the Middle East and Africa.
- In Indonesia, Indosat, a Qtel Group Company, has gained more than 2.8 million women customers through a product targeted specifically at mothers.
- In Iraq, Asiacell, a Qtel Group Company, is leading the way in supporting mobile access for women via a female-friendly mobile phone initiative that has increased economic opportunities for women.
- In the Philippines 23 per cent of the 46 million lowest income people do not have mobile phones and the majority of these non-owners are women. Talk ‘N Text, a subsidiary of operator, Smart, has designed the Panalo Phone - an ultra low cost mobile phone service for these low-income people.
- Following consumer research, Sri Lankan operator Mobitel identified that many women lack access to valuable information. Mobitel has developed the Liyasara service with affordable rates and access to health information for women. A first in Sri Lanka, it also offers free life insurance to subscribers of the service.
Last Reviewed: 24 September, 2012